Book Review: Blind Wolf Box Set [1-4]

 

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Title: Blind Wolf Box Set (Books 1-4)

Author: Aubrey Rose

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary, Box Set (Anthology)

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Julia has never been on a date in her life. She’s a curvy girl with no money, no education, and no way out of the town she works in as a library assistant… until Damien shows up. He’s just like the prince charming Julia always imagined would sweep her off of her feet. There are just a few things standing in the way of true happiness: he’s blind, he’s dating someone, and he’s WAY out of her league.

Oh, and he’s a werewolf.

Damien lost his eyes two years ago in a wolf battle. Ever since then, the straggler pack of disabled wolves he leads has been searching for a place to call home. One house seems like the perfect choice, but Damien realizes too late that the person who lives there is the girl he met at the library. The human girl. Damien is torn between loyalty to his pack and raw lusting desire for the girl who haunts his dreams day and night.

She’s a human. How could she be his true mate?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I received a copy of this 4-book set on NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It took me awhile to decide how I wanted to go about this review. My first inclination, as with all my reviews, was to split the box-set up into individual books and do separate reviews, as well as an all-encompassing review for the set itself. Unfortunately, after having read the series, I changed my mind. This set of books cannot be separated. They do not stand up on their own. It’s almost as if the author wrote all four books (and I use that term lightly because they’re closer to novellas) in one go as a single book, and then split it into four parts. Personally, I would categorize these books as Episodes of a greater whole. Literally from one book to the next the split between the stories occur sometimes in the middle of conversations that continue on as if there was never a break. If you happened to miss the previous book, any one of these books would be completely incomprehensible.

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty: Technically speaking, the writing in this series of books is well done. It’s clear, concise for the most part, and grammatically correct. There were no missing words, misspelled words, or incorrectly used phrases. The writing is strong and engaging, and that’s most of the reason why this set scored as high as it did. Regardless of what happened in the narrative, I was engaged by the writing, and that’s half the score of any book for me.

Plot-wise, I’ll admit, the books fell short. There were little incidences of conflict throughout the series—such as the introduction of  Trax’s pack, Mara’s possible betrayal, and the obscure leader that took over after Trax—but these bits of tension were just that, bits. There didn’t seem to be an overall arching plot to the series, or the individual books, and the points of tension seemed to be randomly thrown in to drive the stories without having any great outcome on the stories themselves. The conflicts were resolved quickly, and with little effort. There were no quests or motivations that seemed to drive the characters to develop any further than how we originally found them at the beginning of the first book (with the exception of Julia searching out her heritage). There were no great understandings reached about their morality or about other characters.

Now, if you look at Romance being the plot itself, then for the first book, I have no problem. It was your basic romance… boy meets girl, they struggle, and eventually sink into a favorable relationship. I’m okay with that, but for the next three book in the series, the romance seemed to be an ever-present point, but not strong enough to actually be considered a plot. Once the main characters sunk into their relationship, nothing really changed with the relationship. They bickered sometimes, but there was no real threat. So while I’d consider the romance theme an extension of the original book, I don’t think the books had a strong plot behind them once you removed that element.

As for the characters themselves, I had a few issues with them. When the main female lead, Julia, is first introduced, she is a weak, self-doubting character. She’s never had a real relationship, and she’s uncomfortable with her body, so going into a relationship with Damien seems like a pipe-dream to her. I liked this about her original character. However, as the books wore on, this didn’t seem to change much. Julia never seemed to get comfortable with her body image. She was continually doubting the validity of her relationship with Damien. As a character (and this is true of all the characters, not just Julia, but I’m making a point of her) she didn’t grow or gain any depth throughout the series. Julia in book 1 was remarkably like Julia in book 4 with the exception of finally learning her heritage. For all intents and purposes, she didn’t grow  as a character—and that’s something I think is necessary in any novel. As events and conversations happen to a character, they should change. These characters didn’t.

Damien in particular was a sore point for me as well. Like Julia, he didn’t change much throughout the series. Unfortunately, the person he was didn’t present a real clear picture. At times Damien was forceful and angry (even towards Julia), but for the most part, he was a rather weak character. He didn’t lead his pack of werewolves with any sense of real leadership. There was this vague notion that his pack members followed him out of loyalty, but it wasn’t loyalty earned through great deeds so much as circumstance. One wolf had a crush on him. One he’d happened upon as she was dying, another was acquired from another pack. None of them followed him because he seemed to have any real leadership quality, and throughout the books he continually steps away from pursuing the qualities that would make him a strong leader. He runs instead of fights. He doesn’t reprimand pack members when they need to be reprimanded. It’s no surprise to me that he had as much trouble leading them as he did. His control over his pack seemed almost lackadaisical.

Even when Damien got into fights with Julia, he didn’t stand up for himself. Most of the time he whined about the outcome or worried about his own inaction instead. I honestly had a hard time accepting him as an alpha male character because his character was presented for the most part, as being weak. Combine his overall presented character with the odd moments of forcefulness, and it seemed as if the author wasn’t really sure what kind of character she was trying to represent. I didn’t get a strong sense of his personality outside the fact that he reacted to each situation in the stories in a way that would bring the most drama—and this is true of almost any character within the book.

The other characters, mostly members of Damien’s pack, seemed rather 1-dimensional. The books never got far into their personalities, or even spent much time on them at all until Damien had a reason to order one of them to do something. Other than Jordan, Damien’s right hand wolf, I honestly came away from the series not knowing all that much about any of the characters. There was very little backstory given, and hardly any conversations that lead to a deeper understanding of the characters at all.

As for the sex…it was steamy. It was also a bit overblown. Julia was constantly shouting “Oh!” or “Ah!”, or talking about how big parts of Damien’s anatomy were, and there came a point where I just sat back and shook my head. Sex happened all the time in this series. Literally, and regardless of the actual storyline. It felt as if sex were being thrown into the book at regular intervals to fill space. It happened before arguments, after arguments, during arguments… even when certain individuals were injured and sex would have been ridiculously uncomfortable or inappropriate during the situation. These moments didn’t seem to serve to bring the characters together, and so it almost felt as if they were fan service in a way. With the exception of when sex actually served to cause pregnancy or cement their relationship in the first place, most of it could have been completely removed from the series with no impact on the story whatsoever.

I think out of the four books, the first was probably my favorite, and the fourth was probably the most irrelevant. Honestly, in the first several chapters of the fourth book, nothing happened. The characters sat around and discussed poetry, motherhood, and how much they didn’t enjoy college, but nothing actually happened. If I hadn’t already invested four hours into the series at that point, I’d probably have closed the book. In my opinion (and take that as you will) the main interest of the plot fell between book 1 and book 2. After that, it felt as if the series were dragging. Now, that’s not to say that all the points in the last two books weren’t good. I really enjoyed the mystery of the werewitch, the strengthening of the bond between Julia and Damien, and the pureblood werewolf subplot. I think those were excellent story points, and I really wish the author had spent more time developing them. Unfortunately, these incidences were barely explained. After four books, I still can’t explain to you who the werewitch was, why she was different than the other werewolves, or what her interest in Julia was.

I think this series had a lot of potential to be something bigger than it was, but for whatever reason, the way the overall story was split up and manipulated really hurt the series as a whole. I wish this had been one book, and that the tension points and plot points that were brought up had been delved into further. As it stands, it was a bit of a lack-luster read. Would I read it again? No, I probably wouldn’t. Would I recommend it? Honestly, probably not. It’s not that the series was horrible, but I walked away from it without any passionate feelings on it at all. It wasn’t bad enough for me to hate it, but it wasn’t good enough for me to want to continue either—and that’s why I gave this three stars (and that was rounding up). It fell right into the lower middle of the rating system for me with an “it was okay.” I think there are certainly people out there that will enjoy this series much more than I did, and I would like to take a moment to commend the author for having chosen to represent her characters the way she did. It’s not often you find a series where the main cast are as intrinsically flawed as these were. There was an overweight virgin, a blind werewolf, a gay werewolf, and some formerly-abused werewolves. I’m glad to see that not all, or even most, of the characters were perfect. It was a nice change.

Book Review: Found

 

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Title: Found [The Crescent Chronicles 3]

Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy

Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Urban

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Levi might be hot, strong, and have a cool set of wings, but it’s not enough to make up for keeping Allie in the dark.

Allie’s tired of being left with more questions than answers. She’s tired of loving a guy who refuses to level with her. Most of all, she’s tired of her life spinning out of control.

Desperate to save Jess no matter the personal cost, Allie has to face the possibility that the only one she can trust is herself.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I think out of the three books in this series, Found is possibly my favorite, though it’s hard to explain why. Like the previous books, this one followed a very similar pattern to me of what did and did not work. The technical side of the writing was well-paced and well-written. I didn’t notice any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation mistakes, and the whole book kept a pretty even, jaunty pace throughout. I didn’t feel rushed, and I didn’t feel bogged down.

Like it’s predecessors, it did lack a bit of detail. The author has this somewhat frustrating penchant for never describing the atmosphere and visual aspects of any of the locals in these books. Instead, it seems the smallest, most irrelevant things (like the dresses that at this point we know are always going to be short and red) usually hog all the descriptive detail. I’ve gotten used to it over the course of the trilogy, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my displeasure.

As for the world building: we’re still talking bare bones. The world the author has painted for us in the Crescent Chronicles is one that I feel had a lot of potential. There’s this ominous court of supernaturals and an unfathomable hierarchy of creatures and royalty that is never truly explained. I would have loved to see the world filled out a little more, because I think given some more time, the author could have made it truly spectacular, but as it stands, the supernatural aspect of these books feels almost like a side-note to the true core of this story: the characterization.

The characters of this trilogy are truly the high-point of the author’s abilities. Regardless of the sometimes sickeningly sweet dialogue between the main couple, for the most part, the characters act with a great deal of depth and believability throughout this series. They aren’t always rational, pleasant, or smart people, but they act as I’d expect any true person to act. They are fallible and likeable—and that is a great indicator of the author’s writing ability.

I really enjoyed the dynamics of the character’s relationships this time around. Unlike the first two books, I didn’t feel quite as frustrated with Allie and Levi’s relationship—though I will admit that I was a bit creeped out by the fact he knew what she was and never said anything. Seriously, can the guy not act like an ass for once? Still, I was happy to see the couple going strong, and I really enjoyed getting the chance to get to know some of the other characters better in this installment to the series.

I will say: The sex scenes didn’t get any better—and believe me, there are a ton of them in this story. It’s odd to me that the author would include so many sex scenes and yet every single one of them feels incomplete and glossed over. They aren’t steamy in the slightest, in fact, for the most part, huge sections of the scenes are skipped over. It’s as if the author leads up with the urgency for the act, goes through the motions of stripping the characters down, and then POOF, it’s the end and they’re talking about how awesome it is. I want to see the awesome! I don’t know if the author is uncomfortable with the sex scenes (which seems silly considering how many scenes there are) or if she simply isn’t good at writing them. Regardless, they certainly left something to be desired, and didn’t improve even this far into the series.

That aside, I really enjoyed the book. There was a lot more action, mystery, and thrills involved in this installment that kept me enthralled right up until the very end, and I enjoyed nearly every moment of it. It was nice to see Allie finally stepping up and showing some of that kick-ass attitude I always suspected she had, and while the ending was a little overly mushy for my tastes, I was happy with how the issue of the throne resolved itself between the three contenders.

Would I read this again? Certainly. Though I didn’t expect to, I really enjoyed the series. Would I recommend it? Without a doubt. I know I’ll be watching out for more of the author’s work. I would like to say though: If you really want to enjoy this series, you can’t expect to go into these stories thinking of this like your typical paranormal romance. If you do, you’ll be disappointed. The strength in this series lies with the characterizations of the characters, not necessarily in the world building or the sexy bits like most novels in these genre’s. I think with an open mind, it could be very easy to enjoy this series…just leave your preconceptions at the door.

Book Review: Flight

 

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Title: Flight [The Crescent Chronicles 1]

Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy

Genre: New Adult, Romance, Paranormal, Fantasy, Urban

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

A summer in New Orleans is exactly what Allie needs before starting college. Accepting her dad’s invitation to work at his hotel offers an escape from her ex-boyfriend and the chance to spend the summer with her best friend. Meeting a guy is the last thing on her mind—until she sees Levi.

Unable to resist the infuriating yet alluring Levi, Allie finds herself at the center of a supernatural society and forced to decide between following the path she has always trusted or saving a city that might just save her.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have some pretty mixed feelings about this novel. Going into this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know much about the series, and I hadn’t taken the time to read the synopsis. Right away, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually well written. The book was remarkably free of typos, missing words, or grammar mistakes that I’m used to seeing in many e-books these days, in fact, one of the first things I noticed about the book was the clear, fluid writing.

If there’s one thing I could peg on the author, it’s great characterization. I was immediately drawn to Allie and her best friend from the very start of the book. The two girls couldn’t be any more different, but it was easy to see why the girls were friends. The banter between the characters started out strong and really struck a cord as being believable—and that’s something I’ve found to be rare in a lot of fiction. Dialogue isn’t easy to write, and the author did a spectacular job of it.

Here’s where things got tricky. The story started off strong—as I said, the writing was clear, the characters had unique personalities, and the dialogue was well written. Unfortunately, I began to notice that the narrative lacked. The author didn’t spend a lot of time on descriptions of anything relevant. I could tell you, for instance, that Allie’s Range Rover was lavender—a color she didn’t particularly care for (Her favorite color is Blue by the way, and she apparently looks great in Red)—but I can’t tell you what Allie looks like. I know her best friend is blonde, but I can’t tell you if she’s short, skinny, or what color eyes she may have. The author had this strange way of glossing over all descriptions except for the most irrelevant details.

For instance: At one point an entire paragraph is spent on the wainscoting, chandelier, and travertine tiles of the hotel floor, but the very next paragraph when the main male lead was identified the entirety of his description fell to: “incredibly hot guy” with “muscular arms and chest”. It made no sense to me why certain aspects of the scene were elaborated upon, but others were left entirely by the wayside. This continued to be a theme throughout the book, and while it served to quicken the pace of the chapters, I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing out on important information from time to time.

As for the plot: I would label this as more of a romance than a fantasy/paranormal read. Yes, there are supernatural beings in the story; however, the majority of the book is spent on Allie’s relationship with Levi, and little else. That’s fine. I like romances, but don’t go into this thinking you’re going to get a plethora of world building and action scenes (which are typical in fantasy/paranormal novels) it’s mostly going to be about relationships.

Now, before I press any further, let me say: I really enjoyed this book. Despite the little flaws in the narrative and the lack of a full plot, I liked it. I loved the characters, I loved the dialogue, I loved the feel of the relationship that was at the heart of the story—but this isn’t what I’d call a true Romance. If you have an objection to spoilers, I suggest you skip this section, I’ll signal when the spoilers are over. Let me explain:

SPOILERS: From the very beginning of Allie and Levi’s relationship, he was pushy. The man wouldn’t take no for an answer, and basically followed her around, inserting himself into her life until she gave in and consented to go out with him. In real life, this would be incredibly creepy. In a book, I can usually let it slide as long as the Romance turns out to be a real heart-felt relationship. Novels are meant to be a form of escapism, and it’s okay to enjoy a bit of the dark pleasure that comes along with this kind of broody, pushy male. (By no means assume this is okay in real life though.) The guy thought he was being charming, and had already fallen head-over-heals for Allie, so while he may have crossed a few boundaries, I can live with it; I know he was being an ass because he didn’t know how else to win her heart… and believe me, Allie can be hard to persuade. However, as the story progressed, Levi became worse. He had obvious secrets he was keeping for Allie, and at times purposefully intimidated her. Eventually he basically forces her into an engagement by his society’s laws and doesn’t even tell her what’s going on. That’s not okay. The more he tried to apologize to her and weasel his way out of being in trouble (but still with every intention of making sure she followed through and married him) the more icky it felt to me. He stripped her of any choice in the matter, put her life in danger, and I’m not convinced he was actually sorry for it so much as sorry he got caught at it before he could make it sound like she was getting a good deal. END OF SPOILERS

The result of this (the spoilers), is that I wasn’t 100% behind their relationship by the end of the book. There were a few moments where I was ready to say “okay, he was an ass, but he really loves her, so maybe she should forgive him….” but the longer the whole sequence dragged on, the more I grew angry at Levi. By the end of the book, I wanted her to be nowhere near this guy—and to not forgive him at all. It’s almost tragic the way the book ended, and it left an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Does that mean I didn’t like the story? No. I loved it. I’m okay with the way it turned out, even if it didn’t turn out as romantic as I wanted it to. Knowing that there’s subsequent books, I’m more than willing to keep reading and see if the two characters ever iron out their relationship, but I won’t deny that I still feel uneasy about Levi. Maybe the author will clear it up for me in the next book (which I’m going to go read shortly). I hope so. I’d certainly recommend this book to others, but if you haven’t read the spoilers, I shall warn you: The romance side of this story isn’t as heart-felt and fuzzy as you’re expecting. It’s still a wonderful book (minus the few things I mentioned), but I think you have to look at it in a different way than your usual Romance in order to enjoy the way this book ends. This isn’t necessarily a story you’re going to giggle and squeal over. You’re more likely to want to punch the main male lead.

I will say this in closing: I sincerely loved the characters—even Levi—despite their flaws and actions. I think they were well written… they just weren’t written the way I expected.

Book Review: Stranded, Stalked, and Finally Sated

 

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Title: Stranded, Stalked and Finally Sated [License To Love 1]

Author: Amelia Rose

Genre: Novella, Romance, Thriller

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Clara Roberts has found herself forced to flee across country, pursued by a madman who seems to have access to every aspect of her life. Consequently, she is off the grid and under the radar when her truck breaks down in a small corner of Southwestern, Oklahoma, and she finds herself at the mercy of a local cowboy. While she knows that she will eventually have to keep running to stay one step ahead of her stalker, she begins to find herself drawn to this man. With his support she decides that her life is something worth fighting for.

Shad Brandt wasn’t sure what to expect when he pulled over to help out the girl on the side of the road, but it isn’t long before he realizes that she was a lot more than he bargained for. He knows that she is running from something, but he can’t quite place his finger on what it is. However, he cannot turn his back on this woman in need and when he opens his home and his heart to her he finds something else entirely. So when danger comes to lay claim to Clara, he finds that he is willing to sacrifice everything to make sure she stays safe.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This was an exceedingly quick read (15-20 minutes), which I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for. I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway back in April, and then picked up a free digital copy just a few days ago when it got discounted on Amazon. Not realizing this was a novella, I jumped in. By now, most of my review followers should be aware that I don’t particularly care for Novellas. I tend to prefer longer reads because as a whole, Novellas tend to feel rushed (understandably so—there’s a lot of information being packed into a spectacularly short word count).

As Novellas go, this was actually surprisingly well written. As far as the technical side is concerned: the grammar was spot-on. Word’s weren’t misspelled or redundant. Punctuation was correct, and the narrative moved at a quick jaunt. There was tension, and excellently written dialogue…overall, this was a well-written Novella.

Unfortunately, as with all Novellas, the story was a bit rushed—but even then, I must admit, the author managed to construct the story in such a way that the rushed bits didn’t feel disjointed or skipped over. I’ve found over the years that most Novella’s tend to have really rushed narrative. There’s a lot of “telling” as the characters skip through the story at light speed, sometimes forgoing scenes all together. In this story that isn’t the case. Scenes are played out naturally as if from a longer book. There are a fair share of time jumps; the story takes place over a period of about three days—but the important scenes are all present.

My biggest gripe is probably that the romance seems a bit fake. The characters are making out in the first 24 hours (okay it can happen) and having sex within the first 48 (again, it can happen, but we’re pushing it) by the end of the third day, they’re moving in together permanently (okay, you’d have to be insane to allow this…). It certainly stretches my ability to believe in the story, but considering the short length of the story, I feel I can suspend my disbelief a little.

Overall, the story is cute. It’s well written, and if you can get around the time frame, it’s a good story. There’s a steamy sex scene, and a (somewhat rushed) fight with a stalker—I will say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the stalker. He was creepy and adamant on pursuing the main female lead…but I’m not entirely sure why he was doing it.

Would I recommend this Novella? Yes. If you like steamy romances and have 20 minutes to pick up a book, this wouldn’t be a bad choice. Would I read it again? Sure. Why not? I’m not a huge fan of Novella’s, but this one was good.

In The Mail #14

I tend to post these a little late, trying to get more than one book in my “in the mail” posts, so I’ve had these for awhile now, but here are my recent accumulations.

ImageThe Reason is You by Sharla Lovelace:(Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance) In the small town of Bethany, Texas, Dani never fit in. Being different pushed her to the fringes of society, and even leaving town for two decades didn’t stop the talk. Now she’s back, trying to settle in with her daughter and have a normal life. But the men in her life might not make it that simple. First, there’s her old friend Alex. He’s mischievous, sexy, and still hot enough to melt her shoes. And he’s a ghost—a real one, who’s always been there for her when she most needed him. Of course, there are actual men in Bethany, too. Like Jason with his hard body. Dani seems to have a habit of running into him—literally. Now she must decide between a man who long ago touched her heart and a man she can actually touch.

ImageTo Stand Beside Her by B. Kristin McMichael: (Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance) To be the best courier in the world, eighteen-year-old Benét Leila follows three simple rules: always work alone, never stay in one place too long, and never fall in love. Too bad she didn’t follow her own advice.

Leila is a courier. To the people she takes from, she is seen as a common thief; to the people she helps, she is a savior.

Nalick is your typical king. He’s rich, powerful, and always assumed to be right. When Leila crosses paths with King Nalick, she finds herself trapped. In a rush to save her best friend Kay from a prison sentence for a crime Leila committed, Leila trades her hand in marriage in exchange for Kay’s freedom.

Tomboy Leila does not want to grow up, but in three months’ time, she will be married to King Nalick, if Nalick can keep his end of the bargain. First, Nalick must make Leila fall in love with him, a hard task since Leila is not ready to love again after losing her first love to a greedy king. Second, Nalick must keep her safe. He is not the only king trying to hold onto her. Leila has made many enemies over the years, and even more admirers that want her as a prize. Lastly, Nalick must convince Leila that ten years of love is better than a lifetime without. Unless Leila can trust her destiny, she might not reach her wedding day at all.

ImageStranded, Stalked, and Finally Sated by Amelia Rose: (Western, Romance) Clara Roberts has found herself forced to flee across country, pursued by a madman who seems to have access to every aspect of her life. Consequently, she is off the grid and under the radar when her truck breaks down in a small corner of Southwestern, Oklahoma, and she finds herself at the mercy of a local cowboy. While she knows that she will eventually have to keep running to stay one step ahead of her stalker, she begins to find herself drawn to this man. With his support she decides that her life is something worth fighting for.

Shad Brandt wasn’t sure what to expect when he pulled over to help out the girl on the side of the road, but it isn’t long before he realizes that she was a lot more than he bargained for. He knows that she is running from something, but he can’t quite place his finger on what it is. However, he cannot turn his back on this woman in need and when he opens his home and his heart to her he finds something else entirely. So when danger comes to lay claim to Clara, he finds that he is willing to sacrifice everything to make sure she stays safe.